Diversity in Romance

The Ripped Bodice released their second annual diversity report last week. You can read both the 2016 and 2017 reports at their website. The Ripped Bodice also outline their methodology and why they focused on racial diversity, and not all the other ways that humans are fascinating and different to each other.

For every 100 books published by the leading romance publishers in 2017, only 6.2 were written by people of color. Down from 7.8 in 2016.”

To put some context around this USA-centric study, the results need to be aligned with the USA population figures. The 2010 USA census notes that 63.7% of respondents wrote their race as ‘white’, while the remaining 36.3% gave other options. Therefore, the baseline expectation should be that 36 of every 100 books published by leading publishers in romance should be by people of colour. There is a huge disadvantage gap.

What do I mean by disadvantage gap? 

In 2016, the Lee & Low racial diversity study gave excellent data across the USA publishing industry (broader than romance publishing), and I created a graph that aligned their results with the USA population figures. The study hasn’t been updated, but here is my graph of their results.

This graph easily outlines the advantage of white writers (80% of books published with only 64% of population), and the disadvantage of other USA racial groups.

Note: these figures are not available in Australia, but a simple glance around the room at both GenreCon and RWAustralia’s conference in 2017 shows a world which isn’t very diverse. I noticed this because I live in a highly diverse suburb, and the faces at conferences didn’t reflect the faces I’m used to seeing every day.

But I’m an Australian white writer – what can I do?

  1. Read. Read a wider range of authors. The Ripped Bodice study only looked at traditionally published books, there are many amazing indie books out there. Have a look at my recommendations page for a starting point.
  2. Meet real people. Look around you. The world is a diverse and fascinating place. And remember, diversity is about more than just race. Meet people with disabilities, people who have different sexuality to you, people who are neuro-diverse, etc.
  3. Ensure your own writing reflects reality. It’ll be easier once you’ve met real people, because you’ll have a closer understanding of a diverse world (ie the real world).
  4. Remember that history was written by white men. Other perspectives exist – women did stuff in history, gay people existed, WWII couldn’t have been won without Indian soldiers – you might have to hunt for their stories, but they are all there and have always been there.

About me

I’m an Australian writer who lives in a culturally diverse suburb. The parents at my kid’s school speak over 50 different languages. I’m mongrel bred white – my father is a Dutch immigrant (whose father was Russian and mother was half Dutch/half French), and my mother is a NZer of Scottish origins. I’m currently writing a contemporary romance series based around an advertising agency who puts together a diversity committee. The first one is about a Maori sports star who has a spinal injury, and a Chinese/Australian lawyer. Many of the people in my suburb are of Chinese origin, but have lived here longer than me. I wanted to play with the more Australian than the Australian concept. Other characters include a solo mum with a deaf child – my son’s best friend has cochlea implants, so there is a close connection there. I want those characters to exist (because they exist in the real world).

If you sign up for my newsletter, you can download my free short story featuring a dyslexic snowboarder and a Korean doctor.

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